6 Ways to Pass the 6-Second Resume Test

Looking for a new job and not getting results? Your resume could be the culprit.

You know the drill. You find a great job online, submit your resume and then wait, praying that someone will respond. Unfortunately, most of these job applications go unanswered and you’re left wondering what went wrong.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Many job seekers find themselves stuck in the infamous job search black hole. In fact, a study found that the average recruiter spends only six seconds reviewing a resume before deciding whether it’s worth their time. And this is only after an application has successfully passed an initial screen by the employer’s applicant tracking system.

In other words, you only have six seconds to make a good impression and keep your application out of the trash.

With so little time, it may seem impossible to write a resume that will impress employers. Luckily, there are professional services like TopResume that offer free resume reviews to help you make the most of those precious moments.

But, before you request your free resume evaluation, read these tried-and-true resume tips to help you grab the attention of potential employers for all the right reasons.

Aim for white space.

When you have so little time to make a good impression, the layout and format of your resume becomes just as important as its actual content. An organized layout with a clear, visual hierarchy is key.

Stick to a black font that’s easy to read on and offline, such as Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Tahoma or Times New Roman, and a plain white background. If you’re dead set on adding color to your resume, stick to one color that doesn’t blend into the background, and incorporate it into the headings throughout the document.

Avoid dense blocks of texts or long bulleted lists, as both of these techniques are sure to cause the reader’s eyes to glaze over and miss important pieces of information. In addition, don’t include embedded table or other images in your resume, as these can confuse the applicant tracking software and jumble your resume in the system.

The key is to format your resume so that it’s easy for the reader to scan and identify your job goals and qualifications.

Make your goals clear.

Are you looking to change careers, take the next step up in your career or find a similar role in a different industry? Let the reader know from the get-go. Include a professional title at the top of your resume, just below your name and contact information, that states the type of position you’re currently targeting in your job search. For example:

  • Senior Financial Planning & Analysis Professional

  • Healthcare & Biotech Account Manager

In addition, include a short professional summary or career statement toward the top of the page that summarizes your qualifications for your target job. If you have specific industry or practical experience doing this role, this is where you mention how many years’ experience you have creating X, Y and Z results for A, B, and C types of organizations. Use this section of your professional resume to explain how you can provide value to the reader’s company.

Emphasize your credentials.

If you have a certification or advanced degree that’s considered a selling point for your work, such as an MBA or PMP, include it after your name. There’s no reason to include the acronym for your undergraduate degree or a cert that’s not relevant to your current goals.

Since recruiters tend to scan resumes at a rapid pace, emphasizing your relevant certifications at the top of your resume ensures this important selling point won’t be accidentally overlooked during the quick initial scan.

Incorporate keywords.

Identify the key phrases and terms that routinely pop up in the job listings you’re targeting, and incorporate them into your resume -- assuming you have those skills, of course. This will help you make it past the initial pre-screens and onto the recruiter or hiring manager.

Translate your titles.

Have you held a job whose official title doesn’t mean a thing to anyone outside of that company? Don’t make the reader guess. Translate your job titles into terms that the average professional will understand. Include your official job title in parentheses next to your translated title. For example:

  • Customer Support Representative (Community Member)

  • Full Stack / Front End Software Engineer (Code Ninja)

Clean out your past.

These days, you only get two pages of resume real estate to work with, even less if you’re an entry-level professional. Before you submit your resume for a free review, take out any unnecessary details that don’t support your current goals.

This is also the time to delete outdated information. For instance, if you’re a recent college graduate, remove references to your high school activities. If you’re further along in your career, the generally accepted rule is to limit your experience to the past 15 years and remove the dates from any degrees, certifications or awards that fall outside of that timeframe.

Employers care about what you’ve done recently and how that relates to their open position. If you’re trying to change careers or re-enter a field you haven’t worked in for a long while, you may need to get a little creative with your resume format.

About the author:

Amanda Augustine is TopResume’s resident career advice expert. She is a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW) with over 10 years of experience in the recruiting industry, helping professionals improve their careers and find the right job sooner. Follow Amanda at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and like her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute advice.

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